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Rams-Broncos: Key Stats Analysis - Week 11

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Throughout the 2014 season, I'll be keeping track of four key team statistical measures, and how they affect the outcome of every Rams game: Turnover Differential, Big Play Differential, Points Per Drive Differential, and Team Penalty Yards Differential. In addition, I'll keep track of the score at half-time. Is there a correlation between these statistics and the Rams' win/loss record?

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams played their best game of the season on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, winning 22-7 at the EJD. As one might expect, the Rams produced their best overall results of the season in the key team statistical measures I've been tracking since Week 1. The Rams appear to be a team on the rise, with hard-fought wins over the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers in the past 5 weeks. The game against the Broncos finally revealed the style of play the Rams faithful had been expecting to see since the start of the season: A conservative, ball-control offense centred on the running game, coupled with a ferocious, suffocating defense.

Throughout the 2014 season, I'll be tracking five key team statistical measures, and their affect on the outcome of every Rams game: Turnover Differential, Big Play Differential, Points Per Drive Differential, Team Penalty Yards Differential, and the score of the game at half-time. When combined, Turnover Differential and Big Play Differential creates a statistic commonly referred to as "Toxic Differential".

Why were these 5 particular metrics selected for tracking throughout the 2014 season? Turnovers and Big Plays have proven to be influential in determining the outcome of a game. There's a historically strong correlation between Points Per Drive Differential and a teams regular season record. The score at half-time and Team Penalty Yards Differential were selected specifically with the Rams in mind. There appears to be a strong correlation between the score at half-time and the Rams' win/loss record. The Rams - under Jeff Fisher - have been among the league leaders in penalties, to their detriment.

NFL Stats

Turnover Differential

It's a widely held belief that winning the turnover battle is important to a teams success on the field. The Rams finished with 7 wins in 2013. The team had a positive turnover differential in 6 of those wins, and a zero differential in the other victory. Overall, the Rams finished 9'th in Turnover Differential (plus +8) last season. In 2013, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks led the NFL in this key statistic.

For the first time this season, the Rams won the turnover battle, finishing the game with a plus +2 Turnover Differential. Peyton Manning threw a pair of interceptions, while the Rams held on to the ball throughout the game, finishing with zero giveaways. Both of Manning's interceptions occurred in the fourth quarter, with the Broncos down by two scores. The Rams scored a pair of field goals as a result of the turnovers, sealing the Rams' 22-7 victory.

The Rams currently rank 23'rd in the league in Turnover Differential (-3).

Team Turnover Differential Statistics
Team Takeaways Giveaways Turnover Differential
1 Green Bay Packers 22 8 14
2 Arizona Cardinals 20 9 11
3 New England Patriots 19 8 11
4 San Francisco 49ers 21 11 10
5 Houston Texans 23 15 8
6 Cleveland Browns 18 10 8
7 Buffalo Bills 21 14 7
8 Seattle Seahawks 14 9 5
9 Atlanta Falcons 18 15 3
10 Detroit Lions 16 13 3
11 Miami Dolphins 19 16 3
12 Denver Broncos 12 10 2
13 Minnesota Vikings 14 13 1
14 Baltimore Ravens 15 14 1
15 Cincinnati Bengals 15 14 1
16 San Diego Chargers 10 9 1
17 Indianapolis Colts 17 16 1
18 Dallas Cowboys 17 18 -1
19 Tennessee Titans 11 13 -2
20 Kansas City Chiefs 8 10 -2
21 Pittsburgh Steelers 13 15 -2
22 Carolina Panthers 17 19 -2
23 St. Louis Rams 13 16 -3
24 New York Giants 17 21 -4
25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 15 20 -5
26 Chicago Bears 14 20 -6
27 New Orleans Saints 10 19 -9
28 Philadelphia Eagles 16 25 -9
29 Washington Redskins 9 20 -11
30 New York Jets 7 18 -11
31 Jacksonville Jaguars 11 22 -11
32 Oakland Raiders 8 20 -12

Team Penalty Yards Differential

In 2013, the Rams were the 2'nd most penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.7 Team Penalties Per Game. An excessive number of penalties can stall drives, and can keep opponents' drives alive. In an average NFL game, the officials will call between 12-14 penalties per game (both teams combined). The Rams' goals should be to have no more than 6 penalties per game, plus a positive Team Penalty Yards Differential.

The Rams were flagged for 3 penalties - totalling 25 yards - in the game against Denver. The Broncos committed 8 penalties for 62 yards. For the Rams, the result was a positive Team Penalty Yards Differential of 37 yards. Overall, the Rams played a disciplined game against Denver, and minimized the effect of penalties on the outcome.

After 10 games, the Rams are tied for 10'th most-penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.4 penalties per game. The Rams are 3'rd in the league in most penalty yards (701), and are 31'st in the league in Team Penalty Yards Differential (-256). In an interesting twist, the Rams rank 4'th in the NFL in fewest Opponent Penalty Yards (445). Apparently the officials still aren't too keen on penalizing the Rams' opponents.

Team Penalty Yards Differential
Rank Team GP Pen Yds Opp. Pen Yds Pen Yds Diff Pen Yds Diff/Game
1 Jacksonville Jaguars 10 331 556 225 14.06
2 Arizona Cardinals 10 523 723 200 12.50
3 Kansas City Chiefs 10 343 537 194 12.13
4 Green Bay Packers 10 488 674 186 11.63
5 Miami Dolphins 10 406 564 158 9.88
6 New Orleans Saints 10 448 603 155 9.69
7 Baltimore Ravens 10 513 649 136 8.50
8 Philadelphia Eagles 10 605 724 119 7.44
9 New York Giants 10 441 551 110 6.88
10 Minnesota Vikings 10 540 649 109 6.81
11 Cincinnati Bengals 10 494 597 103 6.44
12 Oakland Raiders 10 526 617 91 5.69
13 Dallas Cowboys 10 443 506 63 3.94
14 San Diego Chargers 10 560 600 40 2.50
15 Carolina Panthers 11 556 592 36 2.25
16 Washington Redskins 10 697 715 18 1.13
17 Chicago Bears 10 648 646 -2 -0.13
18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 626 615 -11 -0.69
19 San Francisco 49ers 10 572 558 -14 -0.88
20 Houston Texans 10 525 494 -31 -1.94
21 Indianapolis Colts 10 542 507 -35 -2.19
22 Atlanta Falcons 10 588 545 -43 -2.69
23 Cleveland Browns 10 566 499 -67 -4.19
24 Pittsburgh Steelers 10 663 585 -78 -4.88
25 Detroit Lions 10 627 518 -109 -6.81
26 New York Jets 10 675 512 -163 -10.19
27 Buffalo Bills 10 690 508 -182 -11.38
28 Seattle Seahawks 10 596 371 -225 -14.06
29 Tennessee Titans 9 647 422 -225 -14.06
30 New England Patriots 10 752 524 -228 -14.25
31 St. Louis Rams 10 701 445 -256 -16.00
32 Denver Broncos 10 711 437 -274 -17.13

Big Play Differential

Big Play Differential is the difference between the number of big plays - running plays of 10+ yards plus passing plays of 25+ yards - an offense creates, and the number of big plays a defense allows. How important are big plays to a teams offense/defense? Last season, NFL teams averaged 0.8 points per drive without a big play, and 3.9 points per drive with at least one of them.

In the game against Denver, the Rams' offense produced 4 rushing big plays, and 2 passing big plays. The Rams' defense gave up just 1 big play in total (their best result of the season), resulting in a plus +5 Big Play Differential for the game. One passing big play for the Rams set the tone for the game, and was crucial to the Rams' victory. With 1:18 left in the first quarter, QB Shaun Hill hit WR Kenny Britt for a 63-yard touchdown pass. The score gave the Rams a 10-0 lead, a lead they never relinquished. In contrast, the Rams only gave up one big play the entire game, a pass to Emmanuel Sanders that resulted in a touchdown late in the second quarter. To their credit, the Rams' defense tightened up, and didn't allow the vaunted Broncos offense to score in the second half.

The Rams currently rank tied for 19'th in the league in Big Play Differential (-4).

Team Big Plays Statistics
Rank Team Plays Big Plays Rush Pass Big Play % BPA +/-
1 Seattle Seahawks 628 67 53 14 10.67% 31 36
6 San Francisco 49ers 659 54 34 20 8.19% 31 23
9 Denver Broncos 667 52 24 28 7.8% 30 22
4 Washington Redskins 635 57 33 24 8.98% 39 18
5 Baltimore Ravens 648 55 38 17 8.49% 40 15
18 Miami Dolphins 655 46 34 12 7.02% 32 14
2 Dallas Cowboys 643 58 44 14 9.02% 46 12
28 Detroit Lions 648 40 19 21 6.17% 28 12
20 New York Jets 674 47 36 11 6.97% 37 10
7 Chicago Bears 649 51 30 21 7.86% 43 8
3 Green Bay Packers 601 54 35 19 8.99% 52 2
13 Houston Texans 640 49 35 14 7.66% 49 0
22 Minnesota Vikings 626 43 31 12 6.87% 43 0
14 Cincinnati Bengals 620 47 30 17 7.58% 48 -1
24 Arizona Cardinals 634 43 21 22 6.78% 44 -1
11 Philadelphia Eagles 717 55 31 24 7.67% 57 -2
29 Buffalo Bills 634 38 19 19 5.99% 40 -2
12 Cleveland Browns 665 51 28 23 7.67% 54 -3
17 St. Louis Rams 616 44 27 17 7.14% 48 -4
26 New England Patriots 685 44 26 18 6.42% 48 -4
8 Pittsburgh Steelers 676 53 24 29 7.84% 59 -6
10 Indianapolis Colts 723 56 28 28 7.75% 64 -8
21 New Orleans Saints 706 49 34 15 6.94% 57 -8
23 Tennessee Titans 514 35 23 12 6.81% 45 -10
27 San Diego Chargers 623 39 21 18 6.26% 49 -10
30 Carolina Panthers 713 41 25 16 5.75% 51 -10
19 Jacksonville Jaguars 627 44 26 18 7.02% 55 -11
15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 582 43 22 21 7.39% 56 -13
31 Atlanta Falcons 638 35 22 13 5.49% 50 -15
32 Oakland Raiders 588 31 16 15 5.27% 47 -16
16 Kansas City Chiefs 613 45 35 10 7.34% 63 -18
25 New York Giants 664 43 25 18 6.48% 73 -30

Points Per Drive Differential

Points Per Drive Differential is a derivative of Points Scored/Allowed. It measures the number of points generated/allowed on an average drive. 13 teams reached the playoffs/won 10 games in 2013. 12 of them finished in the top dozen in Points Per Drive Differential. Successful teams with winning records are normally the most efficient - both offensively and defensively - and consistently generate positive PPD Differentials.

In Sunday's game, the Rams had 12 drives in total, and scored 22 points on those drives (1.83 points per drive), a significant improvement over the last three games. The Broncos had 13 drives in total, and scored 7 points on those drives (0.54 points per drive), the best result of the season for the Rams' defense. The Rams' Points Per Drive Differential versus the Broncos: Plus +1.29.

Red-zone effectiveness continues to be a problem for the Rams. The Rams were 0-for-3 in red-zone touchdowns scored against the Broncos. Once inside an opponents 20-yard line, the Rams are scoring touchdowns only 52% of the time (21'st in the NFL). The Rams have 12 red-zone touchdowns this season, second fewest in the NFL.

After 10 games, the Rams rank 29'th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (- 0.75).

Team Points Per Drive Statistics
Team Points Per Drive Points Per Drive Against Point Differential
1 Green Bay Packers 3.08 2.01 1.08
2 New England Patriots 2.83 1.86 0.97
3 Kansas City Chiefs 2.32 1.61 0.7
4 Baltimore Ravens 2.33 1.65 0.68
5 Miami Dolphins 2.18 1.57 0.62
6 Arizona Cardinals 2.06 1.49 0.57
7 Denver Broncos 2.31 1.79 0.52
8 Dallas Cowboys 2.37 1.93 0.45
9 Philadelphia Eagles 2.32 1.87 0.44
10 Indianapolis Colts 2.48 2.07 0.41
11 Seattle Seahawks 2.41 2.01 0.4
12 Detroit Lions 1.68 1.36 0.32
13 San Diego Chargers 2.02 1.75 0.27
14 Houston Texans 1.92 1.66 0.27
15 Cleveland Browns 1.8 1.55 0.25
16 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.33 2.13 0.2
17 New Orleans Saints 2.46 2.42 0.04
18 San Francisco 49ers 1.87 1.88 -0.01
19 Cincinnati Bengals 1.9 1.96 -0.06
20 Buffalo Bills 1.59 1.65 -0.06
21 Atlanta Falcons 2.11 2.32 -0.21
22 Minnesota Vikings 1.56 1.91 -0.35
23 New York Giants 1.72 2.16 -0.43
24 Washington Redskins 1.69 2.31 -0.62
25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.78 2.43 -0.65
26 Carolina Panthers 1.73 2.4 -0.67
27 Tennessee Titans 1.38 2.08 -0.7
28 Chicago Bears 1.94 2.69 -0.75
29 St. Louis Rams 1.59 2.35 -0.75
30 New York Jets 1.49 2.3 -0.82
31 Oakland Raiders 1.29 2.25 -0.96
32 Jacksonville Jaguars 1.25 2.33 -1.08

Score At Half-Time

In 2013, the Rams finished with a 7-9 record. In all 7 victories, the Rams were either tied or leading at half-time. In the Rams' wins against Tampa Bay and Seattle this season, they were leading at the half in both contests. In the win against San Francisco, the Rams were tied 10-10 at half-time.

In the game against Denver, the Rams went into the locker room with a 13-7 lead at the half. The Rams held the Broncos scoreless in the second half, and went on to win the contest 22-7.

Weekly Summary

Week Turnover Diff. Big Play Diff. PPD Diff. PY Diff. Half-Time Game Score
1 Negative Negative Negative Negative 0  13 Lost 34-6
2 Even Negative Positive Negative 10  7 Won 19-17
3 Negative Negative Negative Negative 21  10 Lost 34-31
4 - - - - - Bye Week
5 Even Positive Positive Negative 7  20 Lost 34-28
6 Even Negative Negative Negative 14  10 Lost 31-17
7 Even Negative Negative Positive 21  6 Won 28-26
8 Even Negative Negative Negative 7  10 Lost 34-7
9 Even Negative Positive Negative 10  10 Won 13-10
10 Negative Positive Negative Negative 14  10 Lost 31-14
11 Positive Positive Positive Positive 13  7 Won 22-7

A couple of firsts occurred for the Rams in their game against the Denver Broncos, the most complete game the team has played this season. For the first time this season, the Rams had a positive Turnover Differential. The game against the Broncos also marked the first time this season the Rams had a positive result in all 5 of the statistical categories being tracked.

Pro Football Focus Grades

As an added feature, OakCityRam is generously contributing his weekly compilation of Pro Football Focus grades for each Rams player. Although PFF grades have their shortcomings and are quite subjective, they do offer a unique perspective. The grades can be a valuable tool for analyzing individual player performance, especially when used in conjunction with other statistics. PFF provides - on their website - a detailed description of how players are graded.

NFL Rank OFFENSE Play Counts Ratings
Pos. # Name Total Run Pass Run Block Pass Block Overall Pass Rush Pass Block Screen Block Run Block Penalty
46/112 LWR 81 Kenny Britt * 59 0 29 30 0 2.3 1.8 0 0 0 0.4 0.1
8/62 TE-R 89 Jared Cook 38 0 19 18 1 1.5 0.9 0 0.1 0 0.4 0.1
15/76 RT 72 Joe Barksdale * 66 0 0 34 32 1.1 0.9 0 -0.1 0.3
42/42 C 63 Scott Wells * 66 0 0 34 32 0.9 -0.2 0 1 0.1
30/60 HB 36 Benny Cunningham 19 2 14 1 2 0.9 0.7 0.1 0.1 0 0 0
55/112 RWR 12 Stedman Bailey 31 0 20 11 0 0.8 0.7 0 0 0 0 0.1
43/62 TE-R 88 Lance Kendricks * 44 0 13 26 5 0.1 -0.4 0 0.3 0 0.1 0.1
81/112 RWR 11 Tavon Austin * 50 2 27 21 0 0 -0.6 0.5 0 0 0 0.1
Not Rated LWR 13 Chris Givens 15 0 8 7 0 -0.3 -0.3 0 0 0 0 0
17/22 TE-L 46 Cory Harkey * 29 0 6 22 1 -0.5 -0.2 0 0.1 0 -0.5 0.1
Not Rated QB 14 Shaun Hill * 66 0 32 34 0 -1.1 -1.2 0 0 0 0 0.1
42/78 LG 76 Rodger Saffold * 66 0 0 34 32 -1.6 0.8 0 -2.6 0.2
70/78 RG 69 Davin Joseph * 66 0 0 34 32 -2.1 1.3 0 -3.6 0.2
47/60 HB 27 Tre Mason * 45 29 10 1 5 -2.6 -0.2 -1.7 -0.7 0 0 0
27/78 LT 79 Greg Robinson * 66 0 0 34 32 -6.9 -0.6 0 -6.6 0.3

NFL Rank DEFENSE Play Counts Ratings
Pos. # Name Total Run Rush Cov. Overall Run Defense Pass Rush Pass Cov. Penalty
30/85 SS 25 T.J. McDonald * 71 12 1 58 5.5 0.1 -0.1 5.4 0.1
13/56 DRE 94 Robert Quinn * 60 6 54 0 2.6 -0.1 2.5 0 0.2
27/34 WLB 52 Alec Ogletree * 71 12 6 53 2.3 1.7 0.5 0 0.1
2/81 DLT 99 Aaron Donald * 63 12 51 0 1.1 0.6 -0.2 0.5 0.2
Not Rated RCB 22 Trumaine Johnson * 67 9 0 58 1.1 0.1 0 0.9 0.1
46/60 MLB 55 James Laurinaitis * 71 12 12 47 0.2 0.2 1 -1.1 0.1
14/56 DLE 95 William Hayes 28 8 20 0 0.2 0.3 -0.7 0.5 0.1
36/85 FS 23 Rodney McLeod * 71 12 0 59 0.1 0.1 0 0.9 -0.9
Not Rated DRE 93 Ethan Westbrooks 11 6 5 0 0 0.4 -0.4 0 0
Not Rated SLB 59 Korey Toomer 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
41/56 DLE 97 Eugene Sims * 43 4 39 0 -0.1 0.9 -1.2 0 0.2
Not Rated SS 26 Mark Barron 12 3 2 7 -0.1 0 -0.2 0.1 0
41/81 DRT 98 Kendall Langford 30 4 26 0 -1.4 -0.6 -0.9 0 0.1
19/112 SCB 33 E.J. Gaines * 71 12 4 55 -1.7 0.6 0.2 -2.6 0.1
59/81 DRT 90 Michael Brockers * 40 7 33 0 -1.8 -0.2 -1.7 0 0.1
84/112 LCB 21 Janoris Jenkins * 71 12 0 59 -2.3 0.1 0 -1.5 -0.9


SPECIAL TEAMS Ratings
NFL Rank Pos. # Name Overall Kickoffs Punts FG/EP Penalty
2/34 P 6 Johnny Hekker 2.5 0 2.5 0 0
15/48 K 4 Greg Zuerlein 2 0 0 2 0
230/1010 ST 31 Maurice Alexander 1 0.5 0.5 0 0
100/1010 ST 54 Will Herring 0.5 0.5 0 0 0
52/1010 ST 42 Trey Watts 0.5 0.5 0 0 0
354/1010 ST 11 Tavon Austin 0.3 0 0.3 0 0
354/1010 ST 36 Benny Cunningham -0.2 -0.2 0 0 0

The Rams' defense dominated the Peyton Manning-led Broncos offense, and it showed in this weeks individual PFF grades. Another outstanding performance by the defense as a whole.

Scott Wells had his best game of the season for the Rams, and although it's not reflected in his grade, Davin Joesph enjoyed perhaps his best game as a Ram. Both were instrumental in allowing the Rams to rush the football effectively and control the clock.

Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald had outstanding games for the Rams, and keep improving as the season wears on. McDonald was the highest-graded Rams player in the game against the Broncos. Jeff Fisher revealed one of the reasons for Ogletree's improved play:

Due to all of the Broncos' three-receiver sets, Jo-Lonn Dunbar didn't play in Sunday's game, and Mark Barron was limited to 12 snaps: